One of the risks of eyeball tattooing that I’ve been really averse to talking about — almost refusing to believe it in fact — is that in perhaps 10% of people the procedure results in a permanent black eye [EDIT: I am hearing from some practitioners that they believe the risk is MUCH higher than 10%, perhaps high enough to even be a majority of people — either way, take this seriously]. Or whatever color eye that matches the tattoo of course. I wish I could tell you exactly why this happens. No one has been able to come up with a satisfactory explanation. Is the ink somehow pulling into the tear or lymphomatic ducts? Being pulled into the tissue through some sort of capillary action? Is it happening because of over-injection? Is it happening because of too much ink being sprayed over the eye that’s not being injected? We’re just not sure yet — and that’s what’s so troubling about this risk. We have no idea how to definitively mitigate it.
Most people with this that I’ve seen have just some small lines of discoloration, but the results can be quite extreme, as you see here on the left eye of Mechanical Demon (tattoo artist at Harness in Helsinki, Finland). His theory on why he got so much discoloration under the eye was that there was some ink on top of the left eyeball after the operation that they couldn’t remove. He figures that while he was dreaming that night, that the combination of the eye’s natural movement and normal self-cleaning mechanisms could have moved the ink down under the lower lid at which point it penetrated the tissue rather than being excreted. He also adds that the discoloration is not close to the surface as with a normal tattoo — it’s much deeper, as if the subcutaneous tissue is black. He’s tried lightening the black patch by tattooing over it with skin tone tattoo ink, with some positive results but not completely covering it. He also wore makeup over it for the first year, but has learned to enjoy it.
It’s important for people to understand that even though eyeball tattooing is now five years old, it is not completely understood. It is likely that this risk can be greatly reduced by minimizing the amount of ink used, and by cleaning any residual ink of the eye — but I can’t promise that. You can see one possible result — I believe on the extreme end — in this photo by Matti Keski-Kohtamäki.